OSLO (Reuters) - Up to 40,000 Norwegians staged an emotionally-charged singalong in Oslo on Thursday near the court house where Anders Behring Breivik is on trial for the murder of 77 people in a protest organisers said showed he had not broken their tolerant society.
“It’s we who win,” said guitar-strumming folk singer Lillebjoern Nilsen as he led the mass singalong and watched the crowd sway gently in the rain. Many held roses above their heads, and some wept.
The protest followed several days of defiant testimony from Breivik who has admitted he killed his victims in a blood soaked attack on Norway’s multicultural society, but denied criminal guilt, saying he did so in self-defence.
The crowd chose to sing a song - “Children of the Rainbow” - that extols the type of multicultural society Breivik has said he despised and one that he specifically dismissed during the trial as Marxist propaganda.
People then marched several blocks, to the district courthouse where Breivik is on trial, close to the site where he set off a bomb that killed eight people on July 22.
Thousands more Norwegians held similar musical protests in towns across the country.
The protest came as survivors lined up inside the courtroom to take the witness stand and describe the bombing.
“I was spitting teeth,” said Harald Foesker, who had been at work in the Ministry of Justice when the 950-kilogram fertiliser bomb went off outside his window.
“I felt at once that this was a terror attack on the government building... I called for help but nobody answered.”
He said that he lost 80 percent of his vision and his face had to be restored afterwards, adding he was proud to live in a country that treated criminal defendants with dignity.
Breivik, 33, has called his victims “traitors” who deserved death for embracing left-wing values which, in his view, opened Europe to a slow-motion Muslim invasion.
He had said he felt he had no choice but to strike back, bombing government offices and staging a brutal gun massacre at a Labour Party island summer camp that killed 69 people.
Breivik has often used chillingly graphic language to describe his killing spree, but it seems to have taken took his comments over the “Children of the Rainbow” song to touch a nerve in a country that prides itself on a tradition of tolerance and justice.
Writing by Alistair Scrutton; Editing by Andrew Osborn